Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Government Hates Teachers

Harsh title? I don't think so. Sure, politicians love talking about teachers and education, but only in the same way that it makes a good photo opportunity to kiss babies. Voters care about their kids' education, but the politicians really don't.

Just try to follow the money if you don't believe me. How many programs are mandated by federal or state government? How many are fully funded? Of the funds that schools do receive, are they adequate to do the job according to what we know from years of research to be best practices? Are the funds safe when government squanders revenues, gives away lavish tax cuts to businesses, and is "forced" to make cuts in education spending down the line as a result? Can anything be counted on from a government that will break its own laws intentionally?*

The truth is simple: the people we elect care most about being elected again. Whereas that appears to be progress on the outside, it is often nothing more than political game-playing to win the hearts of the voters. But when the going gets rough, policy makers are quick to say that schools waste money and are inefficient. In reality, it is frequently the government-mandated programs using up resources and time. It makes sense: when you don't have what you need to do a job well, but you are required to do A and B, where do you spend your time? Not on C and D. In this simple scenario, C and D could be technology, staff development, teacher pay or benefits, programs, clubs, maintenance, or whatever. Schools are set up to fail from the beginning; being given far too much to do without the means to do it. Is it any surprise that someone would stand up and say, "This isn't working!"?

Rather than protect teachers, or work to improve compensation that more closely matches the prestige of the job they do, politicians are on the attack. They are cutting their collective bargaining rights, cutting pay, cutting jobs, cutting programs, and the list goes on and on. To justify beating up on heroes while they are already lying bleeding in the street, they blame teachers for things research has shown to be due to systemic flaws.

Politicians like to talk about how schools are one of the biggest ticket items on budgets, so that the uninformed believe it makes sense to go after them. Just one question: shouldn't educating our youth to lead our future be one of our top priorities, if not THE top priority? Isn't it worth the money to ensure that our kids can compete with the rest of the world? Isn't it worth any price to ensure our success and survival in the future?

Politicians need to wake up; quick fixes or things that look good in the short term for reelection are not going to solve our long-term economic woes. It isn't fair to today's youth, who didn't cause this mess, to be cheated of an adequate education. Doing so just might jeopardize politicians of the future...when there isn't a country left to lead.

*In Kansas, legislation was passed mandating funding for public education. Instead, payments from the state to school districts were frequently late, and the state did not live up to court mandated funding requirements.

1 comment: